Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Who Moved My Cheese and Change

We tend to forget that the entire act of learning is change. While we acknowledge that change is hard for adults, we often discount this for our students. We want them to start using a planner/agenda --> change= hard. We want them to show work on math problems when they haven't before --> change = hard. We want them to unlearn a misconception --> change= very hard. Some people find change easier than others. People with autistic spectrum disorders tend to be more rigid and opposed to change than others.

Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson is a book that has appealed to the business world. Organizations such as Kodak, Xerox and Exxon have praised the insightful parable and its advice:

  • Change happens
  • Anticipate change
  • Monitor change
  • Adapt to change quickly
  • Change
  • Enjoy change!
  • Be ready to change quickly and enjoy it again and again
This advice is not limited, however, to business. It applies to all areas of life, and I think, especially to education. Adults need to model the acceptance and adaptability that we want our children to demonstrate. We need to encourage flexibility and work with our youth to develop strategies to manage our lives in a flexible manner.

I work part time. One unfortunate thing about teaching is that part time employees are the unwanted stepchild. If there is a need to adjust staff, the part timers are the first to go. The private business sector does not work that way. Family friendly business practices encourage a variety of employment options, including part time, telecommuting, job sharing and flex time. Schools often get more from their choose to be part time staff because the professionals put in the work that needs to be done. If that means in a week, extra time is needed,  teachers will stay a little late, go in early, etc. The employees are not overworked, have time to replenish drained resources, and have a more positive attitude. Due to a staffing cut, my position was eliminated. The quality of my work was irrelevant.

I knew I was vulnerable. The call was not a huge surprise. I was disappointed and am bitter, not necessarily at my employer, but at my profession that believes time served as a full time member is the only important factor. I did see it as an opportunity to explore new things. My husband and I are moving slowly developing a phone skills curriculum and hardware to implement it. The change irritated me, but I moved on. This is the message of the book.

I was rehired three weeks later. Not with the high school population that I know and love or the building I had spent years working at and developing relationships in, but with upper elementary and middle school students in three diverse buildings, mostly teaching reading. This is a huge departure from the upper level content I was comfortable with. I am excited to learn new systems and refine my skills. I am modeling what I want my students to be- open to change, embracing learning, and enjoying life.

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